Baltimore, MD: Miss Shirley’s Cafe

Following our day in Washington, we made our way about an hour north into the seaport of Baltimore. It’s a city with an older feel to it, from the rusted crab ships that line up around the bay, to the small neighborhood streets that were designed at a time before Henry Ford had built his first car.

We had a long day of exploring planned, and getting it kicked off on the right foot was critical. We needed a breakfast that would energize us; but more importantly, something that was quintessentially Baltimore. What we needed was fresh seafood, and Miss Shirley’s was rumored to be the very best.

Located in the Inner Harbor, Miss Shirley’s has been serving up award-winning breakfasts since 2005. They’ve gained the attention of nearly every imaginable Food Network program, using fresh, seasonal food as their backbone, and relying on Executive Chef Brigitte Bledsoe to build her menus around it.

We arrived on Saturday morning to a long lineup of hungry customers. We expected this; travel sites seem to unanimously agree that this place is hopping at any time. Our wait time was about 45 minutes, but we don’t mind waiting for good food. Our newborn, Noah, stayed patient while we checked out the decor.

I’m not entirely sure why Guy Fieri feels that anyone needs his face encrusted on a cookie sheet, but there you have it.

Once seated, it was time to scan the menu.

Good lord – it’s a sensory overload! And this is just page 1 of 2! I can’t eat eggs, which helped eliminate a couple of choices, but only barely. I must have spent what felt like an entire crabbing season going over my options before finally settling.

Try to keep from drooling all over your keyboard; I’m certain the GeekSquad at Best Buy would tell you it’s not good for the long-term upkeep of your computer. Pictured here is “Get Your Grits On”, featuring fresh cajun dusted shrimp, sitting on a fried green tomato, over a bed of grits and ground corn, and platted by Rembrandt himself.

This place knows how to cook! The balance of flavors was spot on; with the slightly sour tomato complimenting the mild spice and sea flavor of the shrimp, all coming together with the buttery grits. This was a Southern classic completely elevated by people who are obsessed with the food they serve, and I just felt blessed to be able to take part.

Across the table, my wife had ordered a crab cake Po’Boy.

The Po’Boy is a Louisiana creation, invented during the recession. When a group of street car operators went on strike, a local restaurant took to serving the “Po’Boys” to keep them from starving. The sandwich combines the French and Cajun styles that make up the Bayou region, with the originals loading piles of small popcorn shrimp onto a baguette.

What Miss Shirley’s has done is re-invent the classic, and make it more regionally appropriate. Crab cakes are the Baltimore staple. When you think of Baltimore, you think of crab cakes – end of story, pointe finale. Large pieces of crab meat are combined with spices and binders; all sorts of good stuff, before getting pan fried for a golden, crispy exterior. The crab is so sweet that it can easily stand on its own, but by using a delicate blend of old bay, pepper, and a couple of other spices they’ve likely got protected by lock and key, you’re left with an iconic dish.

This place was the bomb-diggly-omb, and I was so happy we got to start our day in Baltimore with Miss Shirley’s. If you’re ever here, this is an absolute can’t miss spot. And if you’re pressed on time … well, they’ve got you covered there too:

Location: 750 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD
Website: missshirleys.com
Facebook: Miss Shirley’s Cafe
Twitter: @MissShirleys

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